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In this report, the authors explore the deepening of European defense cooperation against the backdrop of Russia's war of aggression in Ukraine. Since the full-scale invasion in February 2022, Europe, the United States, and other democratic nations have mobilized large amounts of financial and military aid to support Kyiv. Crucially, as the war has gone on, Ukraine's supporters have recognized the importance of improving the coordination of providing such aid.

More generally, defense organizations on both sides of the Atlantic have benefited from increased national defense spending and have sought novel ways to fund and procure new equipment and munitions. To that end, the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have introduced plans and measures to increase military and industrial capability, capacity, and readiness—all of which are prerequisites for a more robust collective defense and deterrence posture in Europe.

Part of a wider body of RAND research into prospective reforms of the U.S. Department of Defense's (DoD's) planning, programming, budgeting, and execution (PPBE) processes, this report highlights the role that allied PPBE–like mechanisms play in enabling or frustrating collaboration across the EU and NATO amid a deteriorating threat environment. The authors explore case studies of evolving national approaches to defense resourcing in the United Kingdom (UK), France, Germany, and Sweden; examine the implications of major EU and NATO initiatives; and assess progress made toward enabling and incentivizing cooperation through reforms to national or collective PPBE-like processes.

Key Findings

The question of whether European nations have the political will to compromise on national sovereignty and bear the associated costs of resourcing collective defense runs through every collaboration effort

  • The transatlantic community is arguably more closely aligned in its threat assessment and strategic vision than it has been for decades—at least as they relate to Russia.
  • National governments, the EU, and NATO have all introduced defense resource management reforms (e.g., most recently of DoD's PPBE System) and collaboration initiatives meant to enhance cooperation and maximize the efficient use of finite resources.
  • Despite progress toward greater coherence of national, EU, and NATO approaches to defense resource management, countervailing pressures perpetuate a fragmented approach to European defense capability development.
  • The focus since February 2022 has been on urgent stopgap measures and immediate procurement needs instead of a wholesale reassessment of PPBE-like processes.
  • The war in Ukraine has shown that exports must be viewed more strategically, in terms of building increased industrial readiness across the EU and NATO.
  • It is unclear how recent budget increases and defense resource management reforms will deliver long-term industrial and supply chain sustainment and resilience.
  • Some critical uncertainties need to be resolved, starting with whether the EU can provide the resources needed to deliver on its long-term defense and industrial ambitions.
  • Another pressing question pertains to the scope for integrating non-EU (i.e., third-party) countries (above all, the UK) into European initiatives.
  • Relatedly, there is some uncertainty around U.S. commitment to Ukraine, the EU, and NATO.

This research was sponsored by the Commission on Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution Reform and conducted within the Acquisition and Technology Policy Program of the RAND National Security Research Division.

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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